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If Not Now, When? October 12, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, National Politics, Politics, Racism.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

ebay_link_gaySometimes life imitates art, and sometimes art imitates life.  This weekend, as thousands of gay rights advocates marched in Washington to push the administration and the Congress to get started on their promises toward gay civil rights, I caught two things on television that got me thinking again about all this.

On Saturday, I watched comedian Wanda Sykes perform her stand-up special, “I’m A Be Me” for HBO.   Wanda’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love her.  She’s sharp, sarcastic, and a keen observer of life.  Sykes is also a gay woman.  She came out last November after marrying her partner of a few years in October 2008.  Sykes, in her public coming-out, stated that she never felt that she was in the closet – she was just living her life.  In her comedy special Saturday, however, she spoke about how liberating her public coming-out was.

“Being gay,” Sykes said, “is harder than being black.  You don’t have to come out as black.”  She then did an extremely funny bit about sitting her parents down to tell them that she was black – along with a hysterical imitation of her mother hearing the news. 

Though the bit was very funny, it made me think about the mere fact of being gay in America.   Sykes is 45 years old.  She has been with her wife since 2006; she had been married to a man for 7 years, divorcing in 1998.   So sometime between her divorce and remarriage she had to have come out privately to her family and friends.  So, until this woman was thirty-five or maybe older, she was living as a heterosexual – denying her basic human nature. 

Then, last night’s episode of “Mad Men” on AMC, wove together the struggle for civil rights in the black community with character Sal Romano’s closeted homosexuality.  Set in 1963, “Mad Men” is often looked upon with a nostalgic fondness for when “men were men”.  Last night’s episode was a reminder that the good old days were not so good for some people.  After Sal rebuffs an amorous male client’s advances – protesting that he is a married man – the client goes ballistic and requests he be fired.  And of course, Sal is fired, with his boss Don Draper making a sneering reference to “you people”.   At the same time, Betty Draper encounters her African-American housekeeper – her “girl” – listening to the funeral for the four girls who died in the Birmingham church bombing.  She sympathetically asks her housekeeper if she needs a day off because of the tragedy, then continues to tell her that things like this make her think that the time isn’t right for civil rights.

Is the time right for gay civil rights?  Many would say “no”.   While our gay brothers and sisters marched for marriage equality and the right to serve their country openly,  there were people – including openly gay Congressman Barney Frank – who advised them to slow down, to “work through the system”.   They caution that the President has too many other important items on his agenda to rush into a gay mine field. 

What is more important than the right to live as any other human being has the right to live?

President Obama can change “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with a stroke of a pen – by Executive Order.  It might not be politically popular – but it is the right thing to do.  And let’s face it – the people who would be craziest about that action are people who wouldn’t vote for or with him anyway.  

Sixty-five years after those little girls were murdered in Birmingham, we still have not overcome the spectre of racism.  Indeed, since the election of Barack Obama, it seems as though a lot of overt racism has been crawling out of the grave we assigned it to.  We should absolutely reject the idea that our gay community needs to wait half a century or more to achieve equality.



1. COACHEP » Blog Archive » Posts about Barney Frank as of October 13, 2009 - October 13, 2009

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2. Gabrielle - October 12, 2009

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong…
Theoretically, Obama can change DADT with the stroke of a pen, but don’t forget that the NEXT President with an (R) can reverse that order. It MUST be done by an act of Congress, and they MUST work together with our military leaders to make sure it’s done right. All three – the President, Congress, and military leaders are working toward that end. Listen to what the President has said, listen to what congressional leaders have said, listen to what military experts have said.
This will get done; but it must get done RIGHT.

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